Our 2007 UK and Europe Trip
23 Jan 2008
We made preparations for probably our last drive into the English countryside and Stratford-on-Avon was our choice. I studied the map and knew exactly where to go but I still got us lost, twice, at the same point that necessitated us driving extra unneeded miles. The signage on the roads in England does leave a lot to be desired.
Our first stop in Stratford was just out of town at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. This is a very pretty cottage which was the family home of the Hathaway family up until 1911 and 13 generations lived and worked there. At the time of Anne the family was what we would call middle class and self sufficient from their farm so they never knew poverty or hunger like most of the population in the 15th Century. She was 26 years of age when she married William Shakespeare. He was 17 and under marriageable age and she was pregnant. William’s father was an influential member of the community and he was able to bypass regulations and secured a marriage license for the couple. Anne moved out of the cottage after her marriage and moved in with William and his family at their home in Hedley Street.
She and William had a daughter and a set of twins, boy and girl, but sadly the son died at the age of 11. William spent most of his time in London, acting and writing for the theatre and didn’t seem to spend a lot of time with Anne. He left her very little in his will – only the second best bed – and presumably she lived with her eldest daughter who inherited the bulk of his estate.
Shakespeare had a great influence on our language and I picked up these few expressions when we were at the Globe Theatre in London.
“If you cannot understand my argument, and declare that it’s Greek to me, you are quoting Shakespeare. If you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare. If you act more in sorrow than in anger, your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare. If you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied – a tower of strength – hoodwinked or in a pickle¸ if you have knitted your brows – you are quoting Shakespeare.
We went into the town centre not only to see Shakespeare’s Birthplace but to replenish our tummies that were grumbling and gurgling. The house is right in the centre of town where William’s father was a glove maker and trader in wool. This was also a middle class family with seven children. There was a great exhibition in a separate building giving a good view of life at those times. The floor of the parlour was remarkably cracked and up and down and was the original stone floor of the house. The parlour was where visitors were welcomed and the best bed was also there for guests . The parents slept in the second best bed with the youngest children. When the children could hold a candle and not burn the house down, they were moved to the next room and the boys occupied the loft. It was interesting that the beds were made up with linen and we learnt that the base of the bed was ropes crisscrossing the bed through the frame. There was a mattress over the ropes made from probably horse hair or the like. Sometimes the ropes went slack and had to be pulled through and reknotted. Hence the saying sleep tight.
We had a lovely day once again exploring England and just love this part of the country with its chocolate box cottages and scenery.